Nevada to reconsider 'grandfathering' existing PV owners

Under pressure from the solar industry and consumer groups, Nevada regulators will reconsider their recent decision to slash the payouts received by existing owners of home solar systems for the electricity they feed back onto the state’s grid.

In December Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission decided to upend the state’s net energy metering (NEM) programme, with owners of PV systems facing a higher monthly fee and sharply lower payments for the excess power they generate.

The changes, which went into effect on 1 January, affect both new and existing PV systems.

Having only last week upheld the ruling, Nevada’s regulator has now decided to accept fresh evidence on the impact of the changes for existing PV systems – potentially opening the door to a “grandfathering” policy.

There’s no suggestion the changes will be softened for new PV systems.

Last month’s ruling created a firestorm in Nevada’s erstwhile booming solar industry, with SolarCity alone cutting 550 jobs in the state and shuttering a vast new training centre opened recently in Las Vegas.

SolarCity chief executive Lyndon Rive and Nevada governor Brian Sandoval have taken public swipes at each other over the issue. On 6 January Rive said he'd contacted Sandoval "multiple times" but was still "waiting to speak to the governor".

Sandoval swiftly responded that he'd tried calling Rive in December but was informed he was "in Mexico and unavailable".

Sandoval argues it is inappropriate for him to interfere with a regulatory proceeding.

This week Rive accused Nevada's regulator of misleading the public about the economic impact of the changes for home solar owners – claiming the actual impact would be 25-times greater than the $1.68 monthly figure put forward by the regulator.

SolarCity claims that under the currently rules Nevada home solar customers "will receive a lower payment for the solar power they generate than anyone else in the world".

The regulator's decision to reconsider the changes came after Nevada’s Bureau of Consumer Protection requested that existing PV systems be allowed to remain under the previous regime – a so-called grandfathering – for eight to 10 years.

Previously, however, the regulator was resistant to that idea, claiming that doing so would mean $128m-$160m in additional costs being picked up by non-solar ratepayers in the state over that period.